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Do you have problems with bloating or gas? Do you recognize that your digestive is not functioning as well as it used to? Does it feel like your food just sits in your stomach like a lead weight? Do you eat really well, yet still do not feel the benefit of all the time, money and effort put into your nutrition?

If you answered yes to any of these questions or if you are simply imbalanced on any level with your health; this three part series on digestion may just open your eyes to some of the potential challenges you face.

We have all heard the old saying once, if not one thousand times; you are what you eat. I am generally the first person to share that this saying has been an outright lie. You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb and assimilate.

In this three part series, I will address the common factors tied into digestive challenges. This is in no way addressing symptoms of disease or diagnosing anything; this is simply recognizing imbalances within the body and following the positive steps needed to allow your body to balance the digestive system based on your own innate healing ability.

First of all let’s recognize that the gastro intestinal tract has one of the fastest cellular turnover rates in your body. In approximately twelve months you have a whole new GI based on any new positive choices you may be making in your life. With this in mind you can recognize that it will not take a significant time frame to enjoy improved digestion once you are creating balance in your life.

There are two main imbalances that I recognize on a regular basis when clients visit me with digestive challenges and the first is chronic stress. If you think about the fight or flee response built into our body, it makes sense that digestion would be imbalanced for most. To understand, if you were walking along in the wilderness and were attacked by a pack of wolves, you would be pushed into the fight or flee response. Your sympathetic nervous system would kick into high gear, the adrenals would pump out cortisol like there is no tomorrow, your heart rate would increase, your senses would become more acute, more blood would flow to your muscular/skeletal system and less blood would flow to your internal organs (specifically the gastro intestinal tract). This response is perfect though, as it may give you the ability to out run those wolves for a short distance, jump up in a tree and save your life. While this is a perfect response for this life or death situation, do you recognize that your body does not know the difference between being attacked by that pack of wolves and your daily stress of traffic, relationships, kids, work, finances and such? For most of us, we are being attacked by a pack of wolves in most moments of every day. Yikes!

So when this is happening the flow of blood to the GI tract is lessened which in turn will hinder your body’s ability to properly digest your foods.

One simple yet effective tip for addressing this is to allow a relaxed space for any meal times. Believe it or not, even if you do not have an excess of time you can still relax. You can do this by taking the time to enjoy three deep belly breaths prior to eating your meal and taking a deep breath in between each bite of food. This will allow your body to relax the nervous system and get you out of that fight or flee response.

To take a deep belly breath, I suggest breathing in through your nose for a count of seven while extending you belly and breathing down all the way to the belly button. Hold that breath for a count of four and then forcefully exhale through the mouth for a count of eight while contracting your stomach muscles to fully release that breath.

The other significant factor I see challenging digestion is gluten. Gluten is an ingredient in many grains that unfortunately is within most of the processed foods we consume today. Most that are intolerant to gluten do not recognize any dramatic symptoms and often this challenge goes unrecognized. If you are gluten intolerant and are eating gluten with any regularity this can eventually lead to inflammation in the gastro intestinal tract. When the GI is inflamed this can significantly challenge your ability to absorb and assimilate your macro and micro nutrients properly.

To learn more about gluten click on the blog archive under the month of January 2010. This will go a bit deeper into gluten intolerance. You could also visit and click on the “Gluten Intolerance” page. This will not only give you further information but at the bottom of that page you can click on a complimentary assessment for the likelihood of being intolerant to gluten and also a complimentary list of foods in categories, to separate gluten and non-gluten containing foods. If you want the most comprehensive information on gluten feel free to visit the “Depke Wellness Store” on our website for the DVD titled, “Understanding Gluten Intolerance, Fact or Fad?”

Next week in part 2, we will address a very important missing ingredient to our foods that can assist the body in its ability to digest your food properly.